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review 2020-06-04 13:02
The Rules of Magic
The Rules of Magic - Alice Hoffman

by Alice Hoffman

 

A prequel to the book, Practical Magic. Having not yet read that book, I went in without knowing the characters or where the story might go.

 

The Owens children, Franny, Jet and Vincent, are 'unusual' and are given specific rules to help them avoid situations where they might do magical things. No walking in moonlight, red shoes, cats, crows, books on magic and definitely never fall in love.

 

I found the style quick, clipped and very fast moving through the early part of the book as a lot of background information was explained. The one thing I really didn't like is that there are no chapters! I know Pratchett gets away with this but for me, it makes it difficult to set daily reading goals. It took longer to read this one as a result. The book is divided up into six parts, but I didn't feel that those separations made much of a difference to the overall flow.

 

I think the lack of chapters was a factor in me starting to lose interest early on, though mainly I just didn't connect with any of the characters. I found their cousin April to be particularly irritating. Everything just seems to ramble on endlessly moving from one scene to another without any plot demarcations to stand out and make a point. The issue of falling in love went through a predictable development in true fairytale form, but the emphasis on restrictions along the way felt overdone.

 

The writing itself was good and I expect fans of Practical Magic will enjoy this a lot more than I did. It just didn't grip me and I expect that already having a connection to the characters from the other story would make the difference.

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review 2020-06-04 12:48
The Parisian
The Parisian - Isabella Hammad

by Isabella Hammad

 

I'm always a little put off when a story starts with a list of characters. It's not a play! While I can see that keeping the family groups straight is needed, a list is meaningless until I start getting into the story. So, I skipped past and started reading chapter one.

 

The protagonist is Palestinian and is on a ship to Marseille. The mixing of Middle Eastern and French culture becomes quickly apparent. I found the subject interesting and the main character sympathetic, but the writing style was tedious and I often found my attention wandering off.

 

Since I don't speak French or Arabic, a lot of the lines were over my head. I'm also not that familiar with the history involved and I didn't follow it as well as I needed to, to keep up.

 

Overall I think there were too many characters and not enough context to put the reader into the period.

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review 2020-06-04 12:45
The Other Einstein
The Other Einstein: A Novel - Marie Benedict

by Marie Benedict

 

This is Historical Fiction, but based on a real person who was the first wife of Albert Einstein and one of the few women of her time to have an education in Physics. Her name was Mileva Marić.

 

The story is told in first person and for me seemed very realistic, showing Mileva's background, interaction with parents and thoughts about achieving her educational ambitions, as well as her cultural influences in dealing with expectations for women, the interest of Albert Einstein, and her treatment at the Polytecnic in Switzerland where she studied as well as her belief that a foot deformity made her 'unmarriageable'.

 

I found the author's voice very engaging and soon got caught up in her tale, even looking up a few mentions of Mileva's life on Wikipedia. The story is mostly fiction based on bare bones scaffolding of known facts, yet it felt very plausible all the way through. Albert's personality came across as witty and charming in the beginning and I half fell in love with him myself, but later in the story he becomes an unsympathetic character which might be less than fair to him. Still, looking up what facts are known, why didn't he ever meet his daughter? Why did the relationship go awry in a time when divorce held almost as much stigma as unwed motherhood?

 

Anyone who has been in a relationship that went wrong will recognise the pattern of how these things often happen. Whether Albert used his wife's ideas and took full credit is something history and science will probably never be able to answer, but in the time and place where it is set, it is easy to imagine that any contribution from an intelligent female would likely be subsumed by a husband with the proper qualifications.

 

Mileva's life is not a happy one and history doesn't give us a happy ending for her, but I very much enjoyed reading this story. Factual or not, the writing was very engaging and 'm glad to know of the existence of this woman whom I had never heard of before. Whatever contributions she might or might not have contributed to Einstein's theories, she stands out as a strong woman in history who dared to step into the male preserve of higher education, helping to forge the way for many women in generations to come. I will definitely be interested in anything else this author writes.

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review 2020-06-04 12:37
The New Science of the Paranormal
The New Science of the Paranormal: From the Research Lab To Real Life - Carl Llewellyn Weschcke,Joe H. Slate

by Carl Llewellyn Weschcke, Joe H. Slate

 

This book makes me think of the legendary Parapsychology Lab at UCLA in the 1970s. The qualifications of the authors are emphasized and the subject treated as serious study in the scientific realm.

 

A lot of what are considered 'new age' ideas are treated with a scientific approach, though it doesn't always succeed in a way that would convince a sceptic. Assumptions of belief in things like reincarnation might lose a few readers. By a quarter through it began sounding a lot like a self-help book and openly admitted that it was effectively re-branding the term 'parapsychology' as 'the science of the paranormal'.

 

Having said that, the book discusses aspects of what is considered paranormal in an unapologetic way that is refreshing and open. It oscillates between describing the methods and results of university studies to test for ESP, precognition and other abilities and defining those results in what might be called new age terms. As someone with an open mind in this area, I enjoyed the combined perspectives in a way that a serious sceptic might not.

 

I found the detailed accounts of studies performed rather tedious and repetitive to read, yet it was relevant to the objective study of psychic abilities. I did find the results of the dowsing experiments especially interesting.

 

The second half of the book progresses through discussing beliefs and how they affect results, religion and self affirmations. A glossary that covers both scientific and new age terms over about 30% of the page count.

 

An interesting resource for those who delve into alternative therapies and subjects and who wish to see results of scientific examination of these areas.

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review 2020-06-04 12:31
The Moor
The Moor - John Haysom

by Sam Haysom

 

This story is divided in an odd way. It starts with a news clip about two missing boys. There are occasional time jumps forward, written in present tense alternating with memories, which is all rather jumpy.

 

When it gets to a proper chapter one, the story becomes mostly linear. There are other news clips and time jumps interspersed, but basically the story is told from the pov of five different boys involved in the camping trip that led to the boys going missing, each of them having their own section, though each one progresses the story further forward.

 

First is James, the overweight boy who doesn't really want to go but gives into peer pressure to be part of the group. Then Gary who has an unfortunate habit of playing sick practical jokes. He's followed by Tom, a bigger boy who defends James against his friend Gary's jokes when they get out of hand, then Tim who is a small boy, son of the responsible adult leading the group and doesn't have many friends. The sequence of events is finished up by Matt, who is the sharpest of the boys and takes us through the climax of the story, which was very well done. The details and built up suspense were definitely worthy.

 

Through these various points of view, we slowly learn what happened, why each of the boys took part in the camping trip, what sort of person they appear as to the others and how the two boys went missing. Some of the story gets rather horrific. I sort of guessed what had to happen in the end, though not how it would play out.

 

This is apparently a debut book by a young author. I think he's going to be one for the Horror enthusiasts to watch.

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